The United States is moving toward blacklisting Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a "terrorist" organization, subjecting at least part of the entity to financial sanctions in a new move against the Islamic republic, a US official said on Tuesday.
A decision has been made in principle to name elements of the corps a "specially designated global terrorist" group, but internal discussions continue over whether it should cover the entire unit or only its main military wing, the Al-Quds force, the official said.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because a decision, which must be approved by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has not yet been made. It was not immediately clear when the designation, first disclosed by The Washington Post, would be made public.
The Post, in a report published on its website Tuesday night, said the administration wants to announce the sanctions before the UN General Assembly meets next month in New York. The anonymous official said the timing had not been decided and could say only that "it's going to happen at some point."
The "specially designated global terrorist" designation was created by President George W. Bush in 2001 as part of larger post-September 11 measures to cut off funding for extremists.
The sanctions cut designees off from the US financial system and freeze any assets that it, its members or subsidiaries may have in US jurisdictions.
There was no indication on Tuesday as to how much money might be involved, but the designation also allows US financial regulators to move against businesses that have dealings with the Revolutionary Guards.
The designation has been used frequently. It was last applied on Monday against Fatah al-Islam, an Al-Qaida-inspired militant group accused of links to Syria, that has been involved in bloody fighting with the Lebanese army at a refugee camp in northern Lebanon.
But a move against the Revolutionary Guards would be significant as it is believed to be the first time a foreign government or quasi-government agency will be so designated.
The Guard, which operates outside Iran's conventional army with its own air, naval and land wings, is known to have extensive business interests and investments in Iran, but the extent of its holdings outside the country is not clear.
US officials have in recent weeks stepped up complaints against the corps, particularly the al-Quds force, which they accuse of supporting insurgents in Iraq as well as the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is also blamed for supporting the radical Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.
At the same time, the United States has grown increasingly concerned at Iran's refusal to comply with international demands for it to come clean on its nuclear program, which Washington alleges is a cover for an atomic weapons program. Iran has repeatedly denied all of the US charges to growing irritation in Washington.
Source: China Daily/agencies